Countrywide engineering strike continues

Striking engineering workers will be protesting around the country on Friday, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said on Friday.

Several trade unions, representing about 170,000 workers, started a countrywide strike in the engineering sector on Monday to press for better wages.

Workers gave their employers until the end of Thursday to respond to their wage demands. Union leaders would meet with employees over the weekend, Numsa national spokesman Castro Ngobese said.

Numsa was joined by five other trade unions, Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu), and the Metal and Electrical Workers’ Union (Mewusa), United Association of SA (Uasa), Solidarity and the SA Equity Workers’ Association (Saewa).

The trade unions are demanding wage increases ranging from between 10 percent to 13 percent.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) on Friday condemned the shooting of four strikers, allegedly by police.

Four Numsa members were injured after police opened fire with rubber bullets during a strike in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg on Thursday.

The four men were in hospital and a case had been opened at a local police station, Ngobese said.

The union also claimed that there were incidents where police had intimidated, harassed, shot at and arrested strikers in Bellville and in Germiston.

Ngobese said Numsa was calling for “drastic action” to be taken against the policemen.

“We demand that the SAPS [SA Police Service] apply the same standards and condemn the growing trend by some trigger-happy officers to resort to the use of teargas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition in the course of demonstrations,” Cosatu national spokesman Patrick Craven said in a statement.

“We call on the Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, and national police commissioner Bheki Cele, to urgently draw up a code of conduct to regulate the policing of demonstrations.”

Craven said before unions embarked on strikes and protests there had to be consultation between police and union leaders to reach agreement on ground rules, and these had to then be adhered to by both sides.

This would enable the law to be enforced without attacking workers’ constitutional right to march and picket.

However, on Thursday, the Steel and Engineering Industries’ Federation of SA (Seifsa) said pockets of strikers were moving from company to company to find and intimidate non-strikers, damaging property and trespassing.

Seifsa had received “continuous” reports of violence and intimidation from employees, spokeswoman Angelique Morton said in a statement.

These included physical assaults, trespassing, malicious damage to company property, stone-throwing and breaking of company gates.

Ekurhuleni metro police said nine Numsa members were arrested for public violence in Germiston in Thursday.

Constable Mashudu Phatela said they were burning tyres and throwing stones at passing motorists.

Numsa said these reports were an attempt by “some elements” to sabotage the industrial action.

Ngobese said Numsa was considering calling on Cosatu unions to support the strike.

“We hope they will respond… our doors are always open.”

He said no negotiations or talks had taken place since Monday.

Seifsa said it could not afford the wage increases the unions wanted. Employers in the sector have offered seven percent.


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